Monthly Archives: February 2014

Dangers of Certainity

One of our meditation teachers posted a link a few days back and I was amazed at the truth hidden in it. Here:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/02/the-dangers-of-certainty/?smid=go-share

However, I have seen dangerous consequences of this approach to certainty way too many times.

Sometimes this certainty targets people and sometimes the whole class, as was the case in the Holocaust. It does not have to exhibit it in a big way and can still cause significant damage.

One example I mentioned in another blog was about an experience in my second week in IIT. I was supposed to present results of an experiment in my Chemistry Lab. I did my best and took the results carefully. When I presented them to the lab assistant, he told me that I have made up these numbers, and thus gave me a zero grade.

We can try to guess different reasons for his behavior. His being just a lab assistant and trying to act like a professor. Not being educated enough. Over-trusting his intuition or intelligence. His lack of a divine eye.

All these reasons may have played a role in it. But in my opinion the main reason for his behavior was his tendency to feel absolutely certain that someone else was wrong. In this case, it was also his lack of data. But even if someone has data, how absolutely certain can they be about it?

Sometimes the same can be said for specific classes of people. We had an employee who did not do even an hour of productive work for us. She then went back to India, and in some unrelated episode got ditched by a builder. So, to take revenge against the class of the so-called powerful, she filed a frivolous claim against them.

In Silicon Valley we see this phenomenon happening in a form of protests against commuter buses. A few months back someone smashed the window of a Google bus. But this is the level at which this kind of class warfare descends, and very soon may take a very dangerous shape.

 

 

WhatsApp and Abundance

Today’s Facebook acquisition of WhatsApp caught a lot of people by surprise. Nobody ever doubted that WhatsApp was an awesome app.

What surprised people was the size of the number: $19 billion. Questions would be asked if it was a fair price to pay for a messaging app.

Interestingly, this fairness question mostly has nothing to do with the actual valuation of a company. It comes from the limited thinking that people have. How could a small company be valued at more than what they are mentally comfortable with?

There is also a debate raging about two Bay Areas (like John Edwards’ two Americas) with people violently reacting and attacking a Google bus in Oakland. Tons of articles have been written recently about the increase of disparity in America. People don’t like laissez-faire capitalism when it does not suit them.

Finally, comes jealousy. Which is reflected in people’s opinions. It’s easy to praise Bill Gates because that leaves you feeling good you were not born when he was in high school. If you got same opportunities which he got, you would also be successful like him.

And it’s tough to admire Brian Acton, because he is your age and you had the same opportunities which he had. So something has to be wrong somewhere. Maybe with Facebook, things look like they have gone crazy. What, with some people having so much money and not knowing what to do with it that they just squander it away.

The reality is Brian Acton deserves every penny of that $19 billion he received for WhatsApp. America has a culture that appreciates the rich and successful. Slowly, however, I see that fading away, which is a dangerous trend.

I wish for Silicon Valley to continue to bloom with hundreds of success stories like WhatsApp.